- Karenn's Arthur Cayzer turns to ambient on his fine debut album.
- To the casual observer, Arthur Cayzer might look like a fringe artist who dips their toes into music only periodically. A cursory glance at Discogs reveals four solo Pariah releases in eight years, including this, his first full-length. That would sell him short. He was a key member of an aspiring class of British producers, alongside James Blake and Space Dimension Controller, that reinvigorated R&S at the turn of the '10s. I recall seeing Cayzer play with Midland at a basement party in early 2012, taking turns to hold down a bouncing booth while slamming out a much harder sound than either were then known for on record. Meanwhile, Cayzer and Blawan, AKA Jamie Roberts, were cementing their partnership as the thunderous techno duo Karenn.
Few traces of this history linger on Here From Where We Are, an album of ambient passages suffused with a deep, searching tone. It's not an entirely new form for Cayzer. Alongside the skip and clank of his earlier material, he would slot in a beatless piece––"Among Those Metal Trees," on Rift, and the title track on 2010's Safehouses. They were accompaniments, though, rather than the main draw. Here, the reverse is true.
The intense opener, "Log Jam," is the outlier. The track judders and swells uneasily, and feels like a rocket surging through the stratosphere. From there, the record drifts gracefully through the furthest reaches of space. "Pith" is as soft and gentle as "Log Jam" is insistent, with a meandering synth melody that settles and gradually unfurls. Most of the album continues in this style, a soothing balm of drifting clouds that frequently bring natural images to mind. "Rain Soup" peters out with the sound of chimes in the rain, while "Linnaea"'s hopeful arpeggios resemble bubbles floating upward to a surface bathed in light.
The album isn't uniformly billowy. Cayzer is a fan of ponderous, droning post-rock groups like Earth and A Silver Mt. Zion, and Here From Where We Are does well when translating this density to his palette. The sombre "Conifer" lets pointedly struck organ notes sustain. "At The Edge" introduces a thick synth haze over the melody in its second half. The muggy atmosphere and crispy texture of "Drug The Lake"' evoke the sunburnt mood of Fennesz's Endless Summer.
In a recent interview, Cayzer opened up about hitting a heavy writer's block in the six years since the Rift EP, explaining that "for me on my own, there were strands of endless possibilities, and also a lack of self-confidence." Yet those nebulous strands are what make this such a distinctive album. On Here From Where We Are, Cayzer takes on multiple shades of ambient music and delivers each with an expert touch.
01. Log Jam
03. Seed Bank
05. At The Edge
07. Rain Soup
08. Drug The Lake
09. Here From Where We Are